So what do you get when you put together all the previous Jurassic movies, the James Bond movies, Alien, Aliens, all the Bourne films, all the Mission Impossible films, King Kong, The Good Earth, The Birds, a soupçon of Apocalypse Now and Wolverine? Something like Jurassic World Dominion, which, from my mouth to God’s ears, may be the last of the Jurassic films. It’s a dark film of nearly non-stop suspense moments that is clearly what director Colin Trevorrow (The Book of Henry, Jurassic World) was aiming for: a “science thriller.”
The wonder and simplicity of the original is gone. There is no breathtaking moment like the in-broad-daylight sighting of the dinosaurs which elevated the original to cult classic status. Instead, we get dangerous chase after chase, generally at night, with many animatronic dinosaurs bringing various degrees of threat. The only wonder is…well, that’s just too easy.
There isn’t really a plot, but several plots instead. There is something about an orphan (or is she?) being held be non-parents who want to protect her, but of course the bad guys want her. To amp up… something… that plotline is too closely paired with the “kidnapping” of a baby dino from its loving mother. Then there is the “what have we done with disturbing nature?” element, which includes a ridiculous speech by chaos expert Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), who follows that speech with amusingly incoherent bits of sentences throughout the rest of the film.
Then there is the romantic drama of Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard), which finally at least resolves on some level. Then there are two action hero movies in the film. One stars Chris Pratt as Jason Bourne/James Bond/Ethan Hunt, and that’s a fun thread to watch. Howard is less fortunate, as she has moved beyond wearing heels while running to safety, but has run into becoming a strange combination of action hero and damsel in distress.
The other romantic coupling (spoiler alert) is between Jurassic Park originals Ellie Sattler and Alan Grant (Laura Dern and Sam Neill). Oscar winner Dern doesn’t seem to be given much direction, and tends to overact a bit. Neill fares better by staying low-key throughout. The inclusion of these two succeeds to some extent in connecting this action film to the franchise’s roots, but the challenge of putting their story in might have been one of the contributors to the film feeling so overly busy and cramped.
Then there is typical threat to the entire world posed by the big bad corporate company and its evil owner. (I honestly thought the set-up for this part of the film was a satire at first.) That thankless role is at least being played by Campbell Scott, who makes more of his character than is written on the page; his half-completed sentences and staccato body language provide a few of the film’s moments of enjoyment. Note: If the idea of insects becoming the size of crows and flying all around you makes you nervous, avoid this.
The franchise element of the film has guaranteed its financial success, but not its artistic success—or simply its ability to be thoroughly enjoyed. The movie is overstuffed and all over the place, and is only strung together by its action/thriller scenes, which become tiresome. There is, thankfully, a moment or two when everyone catches their breath, but those are too few and too far between.
This film should prove to be a good move for a few, but not for everyone involved. Trevorrow may have a hit on his hands, but Hollywood should be careful how they use him; after all, he co-wrote and directed this thing. Pratt is probably the biggest winner here, as his acting is impressive, as is his work with creatures that really aren’t there. It’s a great step for him as he moves from humor to dramatic, a serious action film being a great segue to the next step of his career. Howard does fine, but this film doesn’t provide any more information on how best to use this actress.
Isabella Sermon as the young girl hits every note she should, and this should be a great steppingstone for her. Mamoudou Athie and DeWanda Wise do good work as well, with Athie perhaps being the most relatable figure in the film. French legend Omar Sy (Jurassic World, “Lupin,” X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Intouchables) brings gravitas and a sense of dignity and reality to his part, a much-needed contribution. I’m not sure if B.D. Wong’s appearance as Dr. Henry Wu is going to help or hurt, but Dichen Lachman, so good as Ms. Casey in TV’s “Severance,” here comes off as trying to do a Vanessa Kirby-type heartless Euro-criminal and not really succeeding.
There are some big names attached to the film, but they don’t seem to have helped much. Yes, Steven Spielberg is listed as one of the executive producers, but his touch isn’t to be found. There are a couple of moments like could fall into the Spielberg humor/danger category, but they are neither clever nor ironically funny enough. Music is from Michael Giacchino (Ratatouille, an Oscar for his score for Up), but is rather standard.
Plot lines do come together at the end with the suggestion that this will be the end of the franchise. In bringing several threads to a conclusion, that film is satisfying in that regard. And if you like practically non-stop action with more chases than the entire James Bond franchise, and you don’t mind every version of dinosaur and giant locust in the mix, then this is your film. Otherwise, don’t feel you need to be a completist.